New MacBook Air CPU is Finally Exposed

Posted on October 31, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Mac and macOS with 15 Comments

Intel has finally come clean on the microprocessor that Apple is using in the new MacBook Air. There’s some good news and some bad news.

Speculation about the processor started at the exact moment in yesterday’s press event that Apple stated the part was, vaguely, “a dual-core Intel Core processor.” This strongly suggested it was a Y-series part, which is aimed at thin, light, silent/fanless, and generally underpowered low-end PCs. (Or what used to be called a Core M chip.) And not a modern, 8th-generation U-series ore processor like we see in real PCs. As those utilize quad-core designs now.

So the speculation began. As always, I rely on the microprocessor experts at Anandtech to sort through this kind of mess. And sure enough, that publication speculated that the MacBook Air processor—which runs at 1.6 GHz with short 3.6 GHz Turbo boosts—and was unlisted on Intel’s website was a new Y-series part.

They were correct. Since that article posted, Intel has updated its website to include information about the chip, which is officially named the Intel Core i5-8210Y Processor. It’s a 14 nm design—cough, Intel—but it runs at a low 7-watts of power, making it much efficient but less powerful than standard U-series parts.

And that’s the interesting bit, I think. Most Y-series processors run at 5-watts. So it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that Intel tweaked its Y-series processor lineup specifically for the unique thermal requirements of the new MacBook Air. That is, instead of being saddled by the mostly sad 5-watt parts that we see in low-end PCs, the MacBook Air uses a slightly less anemic 7-watt design. That hopefully still provides for silent and fanless operation. (I’m surprised Apple never mentioned this at its event.)

The Core i5-8210Y supports up to 16 GB of RAM, which is a reasonable limit for a MacBook Air-class PC. And it ships with an Intel UHD Graphics 617 graphics processing unit that can output 4K and 60 Hz. Also, it’s an Amber Lake generation chipset, which means it’s new as of August and not a year-old design or whatever.

Very eager to see benchmarks and real-world experiences.

 

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Comments (16)

16 responses to “New MacBook Air CPU is Finally Exposed”

  1. Avatar

    Subhadip Sen

    Pitiful. The base i5 Surface Pro 6, a much smaller, cheaper fanless device, will run circles round this.

  2. Avatar

    FalseAgent

    Dual-core does not suffice in this day and age. At all. How is it that Microsoft figured out to make the Surface Pro run fanless with a quad-core Core i5 15W processor, but Apple couldn't?


    This is not a Macbook Air. This is just a 13-inch version of the 12-inch Macbook. The original Macbook Air was a trailblazer for using a mainstream Core 2 Duo cpu in a thin chassis instead of low-power crap. Fast forward to 2018, it's the reverse: the Macbook Air is now using low-power crap where everyone else is using mainstream Intel Core cpu's. This new Macbook Air isn't worthy of the name.

  3. Avatar

    madthinus

    2W is not a lot extra, but it will help with the length of the boost clocks.

  4. Avatar

    ibmthink

    > Also, it’s an Amber Lake generation chipset, which means it’s new as of August and not a year-old design or whatever.


    That would be true if the Amber-Lake CPUs them self wouldn't just be renamed Kaby-Lake-Y chips.

  5. Avatar

    wunderbar

    the TDP in the 8th gen parts are configurable by OEM's. Y series parts can be configured for 3 to 8W. U series parts can be configured from 10 to 25 normally.


    heck, the 8250U in my XPS 13 can turbo all the way up to 40W for a short period if the laptop is plugged in.

  6. Avatar

    MikeGalos

    So, what's the "good news" part of the story?

  7. Avatar

    provision l-3

    Intel updated their website a few hours after the announcement. I think you might be stretching the reasonable use of the word "Finally" just a bit. Or, because you only saw it today we could change the title of the article to "Paul Thurrott finally finds out what process is in new MacBook Air." :)

  8. Avatar

    skane2600

    "New MacBook Air CPU is Finally Exposed"


    So, can we assume it will get it's own reality TV show like Kim?

  9. Avatar

    dontbe evil

    the most overprice and underpowered mac evaaaaaaaaaaaaa

  10. Avatar

    Illusive_Man

    MacOS runs smoother than Windows 10 on similar hardware so all the whining is unnecessary.

  11. Avatar

    sonichedgehog360

    It’s a 14 nm design—cough, Intel—but it runs at a low 7-watts of power... (....) So it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that Intel tweaked its Y-series processor lineup specifically for the unique thermal requirements of the new MacBook Air.

    Actually, the reason Intel upped the power requirements is because they are stuck on 14nm. As it is, they have forced to continue recycling the same Skylake architecture that they have been using since 2015 and they have already wrung every last bit of performance per watt out of it that they can. So, in order to release something which is part of this annual refresh that is actually worth something as little as it may be, they increased the power envelope so they could up the performance. Otherwise, given Intel's 10nm woes, the entire refresh would have literally been just a rebadge of last year's processors.

  12. Avatar

    TEAMSWITCHER

    I happen to like with what Apple is doing here. Most users don't run benchmarks to stroke their ego ... showing the device they own today is faster than what everyone else has. Trading a small amount of absolute performance for significant gains in mobility and esthetics (weight, size, thermals, & noise) is a winning combination.


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